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SWING CAFÉ by Carl Norac


by Carl Norac & illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer & translated by Jacob Homel

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-2-923163-62-8
Publisher: The Secret Mountain

This French import incorporates classic jazz tunes from the 1920s through ’50s with the determined aspirations of an angel-voiced Brazilian cricket. Zaz stows away to New York in a lady’s fancy hat, encountering poverty and stormy weather once there. A blue fly named Buster shows her the secret entrance (via a downward tunnel in the 26th lamppost on East 54th Street) to the Swing Café. Norac’s metaphor-strewn narrative creates interludes for specific musical compositions (heard along with the text on the accompanying CD). For example, Vess L. Ossman’s banjo tune “A Bunch of Rags” cues up when Zaz gets stuck in some banjo strings during her fall down to the café. Dautremer’s sophisticated illustrations combine surreal elements (wheeled boats and fire hydrants, for example), archival jazz posters and insects depicted as people, with merest species suggestions. Ellington dominates (no quibble there), but Fats, Cab and Ella get nods, too. The CD is narrated by David Frances and Brazilian-American singer Bebel Gilberto. The text’s a bit long on gratuitous adventure, but the package is unusual and fresh. (Picture book. 5-8)